Despite the fact that British Land's £125.5m offer for Stanhope had already gone unconditional, Guinness Peat is offering to buy up to 15 per cent of the company at 5p a share, 2p more than British Land's successful offer, which had been accepted by holders of just over 90 per cent of the shares by last week.
Under Takeover Panel rules, British Land is unable to compulsorily purchase the remainder of the shares because it has narrowly failed to acquire 90 per cent of the shares it did not own when it launched its bid for Stanhope.
Although the sums involved are small, the intervention of Guinness Peat is a nuisance which British Land understands only too, well having made a similar, initially inexplicable, swoop last June on a small holding of shares in Bredero Estates, a small property developer then under offer from Slough Estates its largest shareholder.
Slough which was crystallizing a £40m loss on a disastrous investment in Bredero, had offered 10p a share, only to be trumped by British Land, which bought 7 per cent of Bredero for 11p a share.
Slough threatened to delist the shares, however, and British Land is understood to have given up its spoiling tactic and sold out to Slough.
Guinness Peat is thought to be hoping that the tax advantages of being able to shift Stanhope's assets around its own portfolio will persuade British Land to pay a premium to acquire complete control.